Travel brands will come under pressure from a highly competitive online market and conflicting customer appetites in 2018, according to new research from Qubit.
The survey of more than 1,000 UK and US consumers highlighted that plenty of the 2018 market is still available midway through January, with 65% of UK consumers yet to book a holiday for the year ahead and almost 48% having not started researching.
Qubit’s research found that three out of five respondents will only consult two to five websites when booking their holiday. Other studies have estimated consumers visit dozens of websites prior to booking.
Qubit suggests that “effective personalisation techniques” such as tailored recommendations are set to serve brands well with younger travellers and families. Three out of five [60%] under 35-year-old travellers and more than half [56%] of family bookers found recommendations received from travel websites very or extremely useful.
These groups also consider “social proof” – being influenced by the decisions made by other customers. Qubit found that 57% of under 35s and 53% of family bookers wanted to know which holidays and destinations were popular while booking online and 49% of under 35s and 46% of families said it would be helpful for travel brands to show then the demand for a product or service as they look. Both groups also called for counters to show when availability or offers were likely to expire.
But travellers over the age of 35 appear to be more resistant to personalisation, Qubit says. Instead, they were driven by cost and user experience. Four out of five older travellers agreed that their favourite travel websites were those that were easy to use, and 51% said price was the most important factor. Almost a third (32%) of older travellers said they would consider switching brands if another website was cheaper or had more choice.
Qubit’s research also suggested that while online “continues to dominate” 11% of its respondents visit bricks and mortar stores for research and 13% book in store. Two percent use call centres for inspiration, booking or post-booking advice.
Online customers should be targeted for ancillary sales, Qubit suggested, with 36% of customers using the website of the brand they booked with to buy extras.
Dan Bensley, travel industry lead at Qubit, said: “As we enter travel’s peak period, brands will come under pressure to deliver more sophisticated online experiences if they’re to win over those customers yet to book holidays in 2018. Businesses that invest in AI-powered personalisation technology will be well positioned to capture the low hanging fruit of the younger and family travel market. However, brands will also need to deploy an array of methods to appeal to the high-spending older demographic. This research shows that a one-size-fits-all digital approach is not enough in this increasingly hyper-competitive market.”